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maybe we are?

02/02/2023 09:36:09 AM


Rabbi Jeffrey Myers

Even a cursory review of human history will include examples of inhumanity, with the incomparable Holocaust as a stark reminder of how base human behavior can be.  The question I have been pondering in light of the horrific beating and subsequent death of Tyre Nichols in Memphis is: Are there words and actions that humans perform that make them subhuman, or are these part of humanity? I ask because the frequency leads me to suggest that these are part of humanity, and not a subset.  We have heard of the phrase “superhuman effort” as well as the adjective “inhumane”.  Perhaps “superhuman” and “inhumane” are the extremes of human behavior, notable for their extremeness, but within the realm of human experience?

It would be wonderful if organizations that exist to combat the worst in human behavior went out of business because they were no longer needed.  It would be wonderful if social service organizations went out of business because we take care of everyone. It would be wonderful if the ASPCA went out of business because we are not cruel to animals. Instead, we need an ASPCH, H for humans, because too many humans are unable to quench their need to abuse their fellow humans.

I have referenced many times the story of Noah after the flood, when he offers a sacrifice of gratitude to God. God savors the sweet aroma, and tragically observes “…the devisings of man’s mind are evil from his youth…” [Genesis 8:21, JPS translation] Did God err in our DNA, or perhaps God gave us the capacity to subdue our evil inclinations if we so choose? Memphis demonstrated to us that there are people, and there will always be people, who fulfill God’s expectations of us. There are plenty of people who rise above the “evil inclinations” to be wonderful, kind, caring human beings.

The squeaky wheel always gets our attention. But that was in the days of a four-wheeled wooden cart.  I have modernized the metaphor to be an eighteen-wheeler. There are seventeen wheels spinning away, doing their job without a sound, and a solitary wheel making noise. By all means lubricate a bit more, but give more attention to the other seventeen, in gratitude that they don’t squeak. The seventeen are the vast majority of humanity who are good, decent people. Let us give more attention to them, less attention to the squeaky wheels. Some might suggest that ignoring the squeaky wheels of humanity is a bad idea, as it will drive them towards even worse behavior.  Our answer must always be, that we value you as a human being, but negative behaviors are unacceptable and unwelcome. When you no longer give in to your evil inclinations, but rather join us in promoting our positive inclinations, we warmly welcome your partnership in furthering humanity. Good is a choice, and we welcome it.

Thu, March 30 2023 8 Nisan 5783